First look inside Walnut Creek’s chic new sushi lounge, Sakimoto
There’s a serious Japanese garden theme inside Sakimoto, the new upscale restaurant and sushi bar that opened last week on Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek. Brightly-lit artificial cherry blossoms hang from the ceilings, and wall-sized screens show snippets of the iconic, swaying trees, washing the dining room in pinks and purples.
Everything is beautiful, even evocative, and certainly a welcome change from the metal and concrete of many modern restaurants. But pretty flowers on their own won’t make you feel like you’re in Japan. You need a carefully crafted culinary program, based on local, seasonal, top-quality ingredients. Sakimoto tick these boxes.
Sushi Chef and Co-Owner Kichul Brandon Jung (Walnut Creek’s Sasa, Danville’s Kibu) and Executive Chef Mark Zawiski (San Francisco’s Namu Gaji) have thought of just about everything: Wagyu A5 steaks from Hida, Japan, sushi from sustainable sources. made with local fish whenever possible, and a sake program the size of most wine lists.
Together with Sakimoto’s co-owners, including Rooftop’s Jeff Dudum, they hope to create a dining experience that rivals Japanese restaurants in cities like Las Vegas or San Francisco. They’ve certainly got the farm-to-table part: Sous chef Jade Kim, who like Zawiski lives in San Francisco, goes to the farmers market for produce before stepping onto the Bay Bridge. They source their oysters from Hog Island Oyster Co. in San Francisco and their uni, or sea urchin roe, comes from Hokkaido, Japan, and Sea Stephanie Fish in Santa Barbara.
And while now isn’t the best time to open a fine dining restaurant in Walnut Creek – Broadway Plaza is still closed to traffic after the November mass robbery, and Omicron continues to fuel the peak of COVID cases in the winter – the young restaurant was as lively as a neighborhood staple on a recent Saturday night. Here is our experience.
THE ATMOSPHERE: Sakimoto has a nightlife vibe, although it’s not loud or too crowded. It’s dark, however, and those giant screens, which will eventually show curated videos of Toyko’s Buddhist temples and fish markets, give it a distinctly entertaining feel. The tables are set far from each other, however, and the open floor plan includes plenty of seating on both sides of the dining area, with a beautiful rectangular bar in between.
THE FOOD: Sakimoto’s menu is extensive – perhaps overwhelmingly. There are 16 entrees – eight cold, eight hot – plus seven grilled protein, three crudo, 20 nigiri and sashimi options, and 18 sushi rolls. This is when a confident server is essential, and ours did its job, letting go of knowledge about emerging customer favorites and their own preferences.
As per his recommendation, the generous sliced lotus root ($ 8), delicately dressed in chili threads and sesame seeds, allowed us to munch on happily throughout the meal, while the plump salmon nigiri ($ 9 ) whets our appetite for bigger specialty rolls, which is Sakimoto’s strong suit. Ruby Tuesday ($ 18), a raised avocado and cucumber roll topped with home-smoked amberjack and pickled raspberries for six hours, was a delicious marriage of creamy, crunchy, smoky, and sour.
Sushi Chef Jung can certainly pack a lot of flavor and texture into a roll, as evidenced by the signature Sakimoto ($ 22), a crab and green bean tempura roll wrapped in albacore tuna and finished with jalapeño, microgreens, mayo. sweet and sriracha. One is hesitant to order gyoza or karaage (fried chicken, served here with cabbage and cheese curds) when there are so many intriguing and less familiar offerings, but Sakimoto’s menu has these classics too.
THE DRINKS: We skipped cocktails, beer, and wine for sake, dipping into Sakimoto’s dozen of offerings. Once again, our server helped me isolate the one that suited my palate: the clean, kaffir lime scented Taka “Noble Arrow” Tokubetsu Junmai ($ 14), which had intense minerality and acidity that made it a natural pairing for sushi.
Sakimoto also offers 22 wines by the glass or by the bottle, mostly from California, as well as 12 craft beers. There are nine cocktails made with Japanese whiskey, sake, gin or vodka, at $ 15 each.
DO NOT MISS : Homemade pudding for dessert. It comes in flavors of matcha, chocolate ganache and blueberry. Lunch starts on January 11.
DETAILS: Open for dinner, with proof of vaccination, 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday at 1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek. Lunch starts on January 4th; www.sakimotosushi.com